Berkeley mother, son rescued off balcony after someone set fire to their home

Firefighters rescued a mother and her teenage son off a second-floor balcony early Friday morning after someone set a fire outside their townhome on Stanton Street in South Berkeley, authorities report.

There were no injuries, said Assistant Berkeley Fire Chief Keith May, department spokesman, but authorities believe someone intentionally set the fire just outside the home in the 3000 block of Stanton, south of Ashby Avenue and just west of Sacramento Street. It was the second time in two days that someone tried to set the home ablaze, authorities said.

A King Street resident, who lives near 63rd Street and the Oakland border, told Berkeleyside sirens woke her around midnight during the fire response. Friends who live near San Pablo Park, a mile away, heard the sirens, too, she told Berkeleyside. She asked Berkeleyside to find out what happened.

May said the Berkeley dispatch center got the call about the fire at 11:55 p.m. Thursday. There were flames at a home on Stanton, the caller said. The first firefighters arrived on the block at 12:02 a.m., May said. Firefighters saw heavy flames at the entrance of a two-story townhome.


Firefighters learned that a woman and her son had been trapped inside the residence and needed to be rescued from their second-story balcony, May said. The residents had discovered the fire, then went quickly to the balcony at the back of their home. Firefighters used a ladder to free them, then put out the fire.

May said the fire was extinguished relatively quickly. The family had no injuries, but was displaced. They stayed elsewhere overnight, May said, but the Red Cross did not need to be called to provide shelter.

The fire damage was limited to the front steps and front door, he said, though black smoke did get inside the unit. The front door was badly burned. A property damage estimate was not yet available as of Friday afternoon, he said.

Berkeley’s fire marshal and police are investigating the case, May said, particularly as it was not the first attempt to start a fire at the residence this week.

Tuesday, someone threw a device “like a Molotov cocktail” at the upstairs window of the property. The jar, which held a small roll of toilet paper and burning liquid, had fallen to the ground and been left outside. A neighbor put out that fire, May said. The fire department was not called and the jar was still there when authorities got to the scene early Friday morning.

Berkeleyside has asked police for further detail and will update this story when it is available.

Update, 5:05 p.m. BPD Lt. Peter Hong confirmed the agency is currently looking at the case as arson and said officers will investigate it along with BFD. Hong said a neighbor called BPD on Tuesday around 4 a.m. when the initial incident took place. A neighbor also reported the second attempt to set the home on fire, he said. No further information was immediately available.